Vietnam’s rare earth output surges in 2022 amid electric car wave

Mining of rare earths in the country, which has the world’s second-largest reserves of rare earths, surged tenfold last year as global companies flocked to reduce reliance on China for key industrial metals, data showed, foreign media reported. .

Past attempts to build a rare earths industry in Vietnam have been stalled by falling prices and regulatory hurdles, but rising sales of electric vehicles and corporate efforts to diversify suppliers have reignited interest in Vietnam. interest of.

Australian rare earth miner Australian Strategic Materials (ASM) announced on May 1 that the company will purchase 100 tons of rare earth oxides from Vietnam Rare Earth this year and is seeking to establish a longer-term supply agreement with it.

Rare earths are elements that have applications in electronics manufacturing and battery manufacturing, making them important in the global transition to clean energy and national defense.

Rare earth mine production in Vietnam jumped from 400 tons in 2021 to 4,300 tons last year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Still, its output is still a fraction of what the top producers mined last year. China, the world’s largest producer of rare earths, will mine 210,000 tons in 2022, the United States will mine 43,000 tons, and Australia will mine 18,000 tons.

But Vietnam has an estimated 22 million tons of rare earth reserves, half that of China and more than any other country, according to USGS data. Vietnam’s rise in rare earth production last year lifted it from 10th place in 2021 to the world’s sixth-largest rare earth producer, which could mark a turning point in its resource development.

The USGS data also showed that Vietnam was also the only major Southeast Asian producer of rare earths to increase output last year, compared with declines in its larger regional rivals Myanmar and Thailand.

The main beneficiary of increased production in Vietnam appears to be China, the world’s largest market for cars and electric vehicles and a major global manufacturing center for electronics such as smartphones. Imports of rare earth elements (REEs) and other concentrates that often contain strategic metals from Vietnam doubled to nearly 12,000 tonnes last year, Chinese customs data show. It is unclear how much of China’s rare earth imports are processed rare earths and unprocessed ores.

Per Kalvig, a researcher at the Danish Minerals and Materials Center, said: “Vietnam’s rare earth processing infrastructure is quite advanced, and it not only processes domestic resources.”